London — Impact (Ed) International specializes in telling gripping stories that have something to tell their viewers. This time the film Shaina, set in Zimbabwe, is about the perils and pleasures of relationships for young people. Russell Southwood talked to Producer Regan Alsup about how the film came to be made and its distribution plans.
Shaina is a feel-good story of a group of Zimbabwean friends facing life-changing obstacles. As they fight to overcome these circumstances, they discover that by believing in themselves they can achieve their dreams.
The film is an ensemble piece focusing on four teenagers - Shine, Stella, Busi and Faro - as they grapple with the loss of loved ones, overdue exam fees, unplanned pregnancy and the curse of 'blessers'. The latter is a form of transactional sex in which older rich men ("blessers") entice young women ("blessees") with money and expensive gifts in exchange for sexual favors. According to producer Regan Alsup, the film is about "friends who start as victims but end as survivors. Together they find the confidence to challenge toxic relationships, the ingenuity to complete school and grow a business, and the courage to find a new life."
The funding for the film came from USAID out of its My Health, My Life (MHML) Activity, a USAID/Zimbabwe-supported initiative, which "will create a movement that breaks down message fatigue barriers around complex, intertwined health issues challenging adolescent girls and young women (AGYW) in Zimbabwe." But the makers Impacted(Ed) International specialize in taking educational themes and turning them into real, 'living and breathing' stories. Indeed the characters, script and early cut were all road-tested with potential audiences in Zimbabwe.
"It was too expensive to film in Zimbabwe so it was largely shot in South Africa. There were some limited shoots in Zimbabwe to capture some stuff. The soundtrack music is all from some of Zimbabwe's biggest musicians including Freeman and Ammara Brown." The film's budget was US$1.2 million.
Covid-19 has upended the distribution strategy. It has had its premiere on ZBC and it has distributed DVDs to schools, youth clubs and clinics. There has also been a profile-raising campaign with trucks with loudspeakers and leaflets. There has also been a digital campaign on Facebook, WhatsApp, Instagram and YouTube with trailers and behind the production shoot material.
According to USAID: "To extend audience engagement and messaging opportunities beyond the film, MHML will create a card game that spurs discussion of sensitive social and health topics, while reinforcing desired behaviors and promoting available services. The card game will be designed with target audience entertainment in mind, increasing the range of interest in and interaction with the MHML initiative".
Unable to do a cinema premiere, Impact(Ed) International ran a YouTube Premiere followed by a Facebook Premiere. The link was left public on both for 48 hours before going unlisted on YouTube. The latter has had 17,000 views to date compared to Facebook's 60 or so views.
"The rest of Africa distribution strategy is getting off the ground. We've just had a TV premiere in Malawi with Luntha TV and we are finalizing broadcast deals across the continent including Nigeria and Kenya." Impacted(Ed) International is looking for TV channels wanting to run the film.
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